Welcome to The Political Junkie’s legislative reporting, aptly titled “The Capital Beat.” Capital meaning grand or excellent (as opposed to Capitol) and beat referring to a journalist’s area of coverage. For the 2014 session, I will be providing weekly updates on your state legislature thanks to the generous support of donors like you.
To provide a complete picture of what is going on, I will be aided by two fellow journalists down in Olympia who will be filing regular reports as well as contributions from The Policy Junkie to help you understand the intricacies of our lawmaking process.
You will be able to find all my reports at the top of the page under “The Capital Beat.”
Enough digital housekeeping, time to get on with the reporting.
The legislative session kicks off on January 13th, but legislators are already filing bills they want to introduce this session. Last week, I covered Rep. Jason Overstreet’s efforts to eliminate our biofuel program and cede our environmental authority to the big bad federal government. Today, I examine what has been pre-filed by the other Whatcom electeds.
Representative Kris Lytton has signed on as a primary sponsor for two bills requested by Peter Goldmark, our commissioner for public lands. These bills tackle the tricky issue of lawsuits resulting from forest fires that start on public lands (HB2103) and the use of the Community Forest Trust account (HB2126). Property rights advocates should be thrilled by the first bill, which clearly outlines the legal grounds for civil suits against the state for damage to private property from forest fires. The second bill clarifies what can and cannot be done with funds raised and distributed to cover the costs of managing community trust lands.
To be honest, neither one of these bills are particularly exciting. They are the sort of routine housekeeping bills necessary to improve the function of our government. They have garnered a slew of co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle as well as companion bills in the Senate.
Meanwhile, Representative Jeff Morris has pre-filed a bill about . . . you guessed it . . . energy issues. This bill (HB2101) creates a program to provide rural communities access to natural gas. It sets up a commission that will solicit and review proposals and then provide funding for local projects that provide natural gas infrastructure to rural communities. As he states in the text of the bill, “The availability of natural gas is critical to economic development initiatives in underserved and rural parts of Washington.” So far, Morris is the sole sponsor.
Over in the Senate, Senator Kevin Ranker has pre-filed a resolution (along with fellow Democrats Steve Hobbs, David Frockt and Tracey Eide) honoring the late Nelson Mandela (SR8665). The resolution is hardly controversial. “His contributions as a leader and statesman to the nation of South Africa provided many lessons for all nations – particularly regarding the importance of civil rights which allow open elections and provide protections against unwarranted search and imprisonment.” Expect this resolution to fly through the process with the only potential source of friction being a few Tea Party-style Republicans are looking to grandstand on this. I’m looking at you Rep. Jason Overstreet, don’t disappoint.
Senator Doug Ericksen and Representative Vincent Buys have yet to pre-file any bills. I will be keeping a close eye on all their efforts as the session heats up.